Dramatic mountain scenery, lush vineyards and historic Cape Dutch architecture are your beautiful backdrop while you taste the Cape’s splendid wines and soak up your gorgeous surroundings
In the Cape Winelands, splendid mountains form a dramatic backdrop to lush vineyards and gabled Cape Dutch homesteads steeped in history. The Cape Winelands is filled with fertile valleys planted with vines stretching across rolling fields, where farmers enjoy perfect conditions for creating some of the best wines in the world. The region is a wonderful combination of quaint towns, beautiful scenery and wine estates producing delicious wines and brandies.
Visit many wine farms for a wine tasting and cellar tour or stroll down a beautifully restored street in one of the historic town centres and visit the museums and monuments that pay homage to the proud history of the original Dutch, French and German settlers.
South Africa’s Cape Winelands produced the first local wines in 1659. Since then the industry has gone from strength to strength, and it’s not hard to see why. The Mediterranean climate, cooling winds, soil and expertise are the perfect ingredients for creating superior wines.
In 1652 the Dutch East India Company dispatched Jan van Riebeeck to erect a fort and lay out a vegetable garden in Table Bay. Five years later the first farmers started working their own land and in 1659 van Riebeeck recorded the making of the first wine in the Cape. These were made from indigenous wild grapes but later French vines were planted – including Chenin Blanc and Muscat. The industry received a huge boost in 1686 when a large number of Huguenot religious refugees arrived from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Most of them came from wine-growing regions, bringing with them their knowledge and skills. Many chose to live in what is now Franschhoek (‘French Corner’), their farms still linked to France through names such as La Motte, Cabrière, Provence and Dieu Donne.
In 1866 the Cape Winelands were devastated by phylloxera, which kills vine roots. A massive replanting of South Africa’s vineyards followed, which laid the foundation for the current industry structure of cooperatives and private producers. These cater for a whole range or tastes, from everyday consumption to high-end quality wines, many of which have won international acclaim.
While most of the grapes from the Cape Winelands will be familiar to visitors, there is one uniquely South African viticultural cross – pinotage. Created by Professor Abraham Perold at Stellenbosch University in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (formerly known as Hermitage), it produces a deep red wine with smoky, earthy flavours.